Marin El Roy review

It’s long, slack and low – and all the better for it

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £2,295.00 RRP | USD $2,499.00 | EUR €2,799.00
Pack shot of a red Marin El Roy hardtail mountain bike

Our review

The El Roy is as happy as any hardtail I've ridden when the going gets tough
Pros: As competent as a hardtail can be on steep descents, with smart component choices and geometry that gives no excuses; climbs steep and loose tech surprisingly well for a ‘big’ bike
Cons: A bit of a drag on smooth, mellow climbs and traverses
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The latest bike to join Marin’s impressive line-up is the El Roy – a 29er steel hardtail designed for the rough and tumble world of downhill, enduro, and bikepark trails that’s still able to handle the tracks back to the top of the hill.

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While the Californian brand might have its roots in dry and dusty terrain, the El Roy has clearly been influenced by the UK riding scene.

Five test mules were ridden on a wide range of tracks here in the UK to make sure they were ready for our steep, loose and muddy conditions. This has resulted in some of the frame’s features, as well as its geometry, which, it’s fair to say, is fairly radical.

Pack shot of a red Marin El Roy hardtail mountain bike
A Maxxis Assegai keeps the front wheel in check.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Marin’s range all take their names from popular spots in and around Marin County, and the El Roy is no different.

Post ride, the team from Marin bike’s HQ likes to take in a burrito and can of IPA, and its favourite lunch spot, El Roy, is also one of the best, apparently! Fittingly, the coordinates of El Roy’s Mexican Grill in Petaluma are detailed on the back of the seat tube.

Marin El Roy frame details

Marin has built the frame from Series 3 4130 double-butted cromoly, which has been electronically coated inside and out to protect it from corrosion before being painted.

The relatively skinny seatstays have a slight kink in them just above the rear axle, and that rear triangle is completed with investment cast dropouts and a brace for strength.

Other than the dropper, all hoses and cables are externally routed, and there’s a set of bosses under the top tube – these can hold either a secondary bottle cage or one of the increasing numbers of tool and spare parts carriers that use a bottle boss standard mount.

The bottom bracket shell takes a threaded BB, while the head tube accepts an integrated drop-in headset.

Marin El Roy geometry

The El Roy very much uses the long, low and slack formula, with a very long reach, a fairly low BB, short seat tube, and a very slack head angle.

Two sizes will be available: Regular and Grande. There’s relatively little difference between the two sizes, other than the front-end length – the Grande being 30mm longer in its reach/top tube/wheelbase.

Otherwise, the only other differences are an additional 10mm on the seat tube, and the spec list, whereby the Grande gets a 170mm dropper versus the Regular’s 150mm. The bike is built around a 140mm fork with a 44mm offset.

 Regular Grande
Seat angle (degrees) 78 78
Head angle (degrees) 63 63
Chainstay (cm) 43.5 43.5
Seat tube (cm) 42 43
Head tube (cm) 12 12
Fork offset (cm) 4.4 4.4
Bottom bracket height (cm) 31.8 31.8
Wheelbase (mm) 1,252 1,282
Stack (cm) 64.5 64.5

Marin El Roy spec

Currently, the El Roy is available in one build only and its kit list echoes the attitude of the geometry.

The kit is burly and clearly marks the El Roy out as a bike designed with the rougher and steeper end of the riding spectrum in mind.

Marzocchi Z1 suspension fork on a hardtail mountain bike
The 140mm Marzocchi Z1 performed well during testing.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Up front is a Marzocchi Z1 fork with 140mm of travel. This has an air spring and a GRIP damper, and a compression dial on the top to firm the fork out for longer smooth climbs.

The wheels feature Shimano hubs with Marin-branded double-wall alloy rims, which are 29mm wide internally. They’re wrapped in Maxxis Assegai 29 x 2.5in tyres, in the stickiest MaxxGrip compound, and built on the DH-spec DoubleDown carcass.

Shimano provides the bulk of the drivetrain, with a 1×12 10:51t Deore system, though you get an FSA Comet chainset with 32t ring and a KMC chain.

Shimano also supplies the brakes, they’re four-pot MT420 units paired with 203mm (f) and 180mm (r) rotors.

Finishing kit is largely Marin branded, but you do get an X-Fusion Manic dropper (150mm Regular / 170mm Grande).

Marin El Roy ride impressions

It’ll be no surprise that the El Roy isn’t exactly a flyweight climbing superstar. The steel frame, meaty suspension fork, burly wheels and sticky DH-spec tyres mean the El Roy weighs a fair bit and drags on smooth climbs.

The soft compound tyres might offer all the grip in the world, but that’s little help when pulling the bike up fireroads and tarmac pitches.

A short stem keeps the handling fairly snappy despite the El Roy's head angle and reach
A short stem keeps the handling fairly snappy despite the El Roy’s head angle and reach.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Fortunately, if you’re in the market for this kind of bike, we don’t expect this will phase you too much. And, while worth pointing out, this isn’t something that should be dwelled upon, given how well the bike performs in nearly every other aspect.

Things definitely look up for the El Roy when the climbs steepen and become looser and more technical.

Here, those sticky tyres mean traction is rarely limited. This is combined with an almost comically steep seat angle, which puts you in exactly the right position between the axles on steep, stem-chewing climbs.

On the flat, or mellow climbs, the seat angle almost feels odd, but it instantly makes sense when the gradient increases.

Cyclist in blue riding a red hardtail mountain bike
The steep seat angle helps no end on steep climbs.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The long front end means there’s plenty of room over the bike – both good for moving your body weight to either control the front end or keep your lungs open when you’re gasping. It’s far from cramped.

The 435mm chainstays help the El Roy negotiate tight uphill corners, but because they’re relatively short compared to the front end, you’ll need to keep the front wheel in check because it can go light with reasonable ease on the steeper pitches.

Save for this, there’s relatively little to report on its climbing performance, other than the 12-speed Shimano cassette gives a lesson in smooth, dependable shifting under load.

Cyclist in blue riding a red hardtail mountain bike
The Marin El Roy is an aggressive enduro hardtail.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

As the trail starts to fall away, the El Roy begins to shed its sluggish feel, with the bike getting better and better the steeper the descent.

On flat, pedally singletrack the bike needs a concerted effort to keep the front wheel weighted, pretty much as per any of the longer bikes with higher stack heights out there.

This helps the Assegai up front resolutely grip the ground, otherwise you can start to understeer a little – if you’re jumping from a ‘short’ bike to this, you may need to reassess your riding position to get the best out of it.

From turn to turn, on those flatter trails, it takes a bit of effort to pick up speed, but, once rolling, it’ll keep moving as fast as you dare – so long as you can get it flowing nicely through the corners.

Cyclist in blue riding a red hardtail mountain bike
Drop your heels, grab the rear brake, tip the bike in and spray loam everywhere.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The El Roy opens up as you hit the steepest of tracks. With a fairly high stack of 645mm, the front end is tall, and effective for letting you properly weight the front wheel that’s punted out well ahead of the handlebars.

The 63-degree head angle not only helps keep the front wheel well ahead of you, but also helps the front wheel absorb frontal impacts as you descend.

The Marzocchi Z1 feels smooth in operation and has enough support through it that the bike doesn’t dive into its travel, affecting the dynamic geometry of the bike too much.

With the front wheel well weighted, the El Roy corners well, happily allowing you to weight the front contact patch, lean the bike and carve the rear wheel round the corner.

With no rear suspension to speak of, the ride is understandably firm, but it’s not a real teeth rattler. The longer wheelbase means the bike pitches less over a given bump than a shorter bike might, calming the ride.

The DoubleDown carcass in the tyres provides plenty of confidence when bumping the rear wheel over rocks and roots, too, and you can get away with slightly lower pressures to take the sting out of the bike’s tail.

With the front-end more than able to deal with the terrain, it’s largely a case of letting the rear wheel just follow along, with little need to put too much consideration in to where or what it’s about to hit.

Cyclist in blue riding a red hardtail mountain bike
While you’ll know when the rear end lands, the El Roy is happiest when you get rowdy.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Overall, he El Roy’s kit feels well considered; the wheels give plenty of support and volume to the sturdy tyres, while Shimano’s budget four-pot brakes have surprisingly large amounts of power and bite, something which the tyres are more than happy to exploit.

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The short 35mm stem and 780mm bars give control while preventing the bike feeling too lazy while steering on steep tracks.

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €2799.00GBP £2295.00USD $2499.00
Weight 15.1g (Regular) – as tested
Brand Marin

Features

Available sizes Regular, Grande
Brakes Shimano MT401, 203mm/180mm
Chain KMC
Cranks FSA Comet
Fork Marzocchi Z1 140mm
Frame Series 3 double butted cromoly
Handlebar Marin Mini-riser 780mm
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore 1x12
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 150mm
Shifter Shimano Deore 1x12
Stem Marin 35mm
Tyres Maxxis Assegai 29x2.5in MaxxGrip DoubleDown
Wheels Shimano MT401 hubs, Marin Double Wall Alloy rims